Do Things Differently

How to replace bad habits with good ones.
Published November 11, 2015

Replacing bad habits with good ones can be a long and arduous task. How often do you walk around on autopilot and order a pain au chocolate with your cappuccino before you even stop to think about it, or take the escalator before you've noticed there are stairs?

The rules

  • Set yourself a period in which to make changes — we suggest a week.
  • Make what you do a healthy or healthier option if possible.
  • Don't do the same thing twice if there is another option.
  • Write down what you do and how you feel about it.
  • Make it fun! How many things can you change in one day/week?
  • Think about getting the family or a friend to join in and awarding penalties when you spot someone doing the same thing that they normally do.

A sample day

  1. If you usually get dressed before breakfast, leave it until after you've eaten. Make sure you have something you wouldn't normally choose for breakfast.
  2. Re-discover your wardrobe and wear forgotten outfits, or combinations you haven't tried before.
  3. Ladies — wear make-up if you don't, go without it if you usually use it religiously.
  4. Walk a different way to work/school or take an alternative means of transport.
  5. Treat yourself to a pack of fruit or herbal teas and vary what you drink. Likewise, order a different drink at the coffee shop, and how about packing some fruit (a different kind each day!) in exchange for that cake or croissant?
  6. Read a different newspaper or magazine.
  7. Bring your own lunch if you usually eat out, and then cook yourself a meal you wouldn't normally have in the evening.
  8. Do a social activity that's unusual for you — ten pin bowling if you like clubbing, bingo if you usually go to the cinema. Take a long walk with the kids or go swimming in the early evening if you usually collapse on the sofa in front of your favourite TV show.
  9. If you usually listen to music on the radio tune into a talk show, or even snuggle up and listen to an evening play instead of watching TV.
  10. Do ten repetitions of a different exercise each time the ads come on TV.

The results
Hopefully, by the end of the week you'll have had some fun! You'll find that it's a lot harder to go back to your old habits now that you see how boring and repetitive they really are. But, also, look at your new experiences, and decide which of them you want to keep.

"The early days are where you do all the hard work, it's where you take a leap of faith and trust that you have to do something different for your life to be different." Suzy Greaves, coach and author of The Big Leap.